Man on explosives charges refused bail

Police carry out searches at a property and vehicles on the New Lodge Road on July 14. Picture by Mal McCann

A Belfast man on an explosives charge linked to a search in the New Lodge area of Belfast has been refused bail.

Michael Thomas Lagan, from Cuchulainn House, appeared at Belfast Magistrates Court charged with possessing an improvised explosive device and component parts with intent to endanger life on July 14.

A solicitor acting on behalf of Lagan said his client had "no knowledge" of the items found, "no interest in divisive politics", was not sectarian and had in the past worked in east Belfast as a community worker.

The 28-year old was arrested along with his 29-year old girlfriend following the discovery of the bomb parts in Lagan's New Lodge flat last Thursday.

The couple were arrested and taken to Musgrave Street for questioning, and while the woman was released pending a report to the Department of Public Prosecutions, Lagan was charged and appeared in court today.

A police constable told the court he believed he could connect Lagan to the charge. The constable also revealed police were objecting to Lagan being released on bail for a number of reasons, including a concern he would commit further offences.

The constable said the explosives were found in an area where offences of this type were prevalent.

When District Judge Fiona Bagnall asked the officer "do you think he (Lagan) is part of any organisation", the constable replied: "At the minute we are investigating that line of enquiry."

The officer also spoke of police concerns that if released, Lagan may abscond as he had "multiple IDs".

Addressing police concerns, Lagan's solicitor said his client was "born a Lagan" but changed his name by deed poll three years ago "out of respect" to his grandmother who helped raise him. The solicitor then added: "I am not aware of any other name."

He also said a police fear of Lagan absconding "should not weight heavily" as he has "significant ties to this jurisdiction". Pointing out that Lagan's children and family all lived here, the solicitor said there was "no prospect" of him fleeing Northern Ireland.

Regarding the flat where the explosives were found last Thursday, the solicitor said that despite them being found in his property, Lagan had "no knowledge" of them. The solicitor said other people including relatives had stayed at the flat, and that he "didn't live there all the time" as he had been staying with his partner.

The solicitor also said that Lagan had "nothing political" on his record, that he used to work in the community in east Belfast and that he "maintains links with both sides of the community."

Refusing bail, District Judge Fiona Bagnall said "at this stage he should be remanded in custody."

The case will be before the same court on August 15.

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